Ken Park is a controversial 2002 American-Dutch-French drama film directed by Larry Clark. It is his fifth film, after Kids, Another Day in Paradise, Bully and Teenage Caveman, and his first to be written by Harmony Korine since Kids.
The film consists of four storylines about four teenagers living in the same neighborhood:
- Claude (Stephen Jasso) is a skateboarder with an ignorant pregnant mother and a brutish father who constantly abuses him due to not thinking him manly enough.
- Tate (James Ransone) lives with his grandparents but hates them and constantly verbally abuses them. He is a necrophiliac who asphyxiates himself for sexual pleasure.
- Shawn (James Bullard) is having an affair with his girlfriend's mother and dreams of getting them both in bed at the same time.
- Peaches (Tiffany Limos) has a hyper-religious father who goes ballistic when he catches her about to have sex with a boy.
The title character, Ken Park, commits suicide in the opening.
This film provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Claude's and Peaches's fathers (the former sees Claude as nothing but a weak failure. The latter seems like a decent parent at first, until he catches Peaches about to have sex with a friend of hers).
- An Aesop: The film carries a strong message of warning against improper parenting and the consequences it can bring. All of the parental figures in the film have failed their youth in some grievous way.
- Crapsack World: If the main characters and their families are representative of Valencia, California as a whole, then something is seriously wrong with that town.
- Dysfunction Junction: When the kid that's cheating on his girlfriend with her married mother is the least messed up one of the cast, you know the characters have some serious issues.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: Tate does this...in VERY graphic detail. Probably the most infamous scene in the film.
- Euroshlock: Zig-Zagged. It's set in America, and the film's writer and director are from America, but it was produced by Kasander Film Company and Cinéa; which are from the Netherlands and France, respectively.
- Extreme Doormat: Tate's grandparents, who fall victim to Tate's extremely abusive behavior while never actually doing anything about it.
- A Family Affair: The teenager Shawn is sleeping with his girlfriend's mother behind her back and fantasizes about having a threeway with the two of them. Out of the four main characters, whose lives are rife with abuse and dysfunction, his situation is probably the least psychologically messed up.
- Fan Disservice: On one hand, you got Tate's aforementioned asphyxiation scene along with Claude's dad trying to give his son a blowjob. In fact, most of the sex scenes in the film are made to appear as grotesque as possible, both intentionally and unintentionally.
- Fanservice: On the other hand, you have quite a bit of nude women throughout the film, most notably Maeve Quinlan as Rhonda.
- The Fundamentalist: Peaches's dad has very strong religious beliefs. Shown more clearly when he abuses Peaches after he viciously attacks her friend that she was about to have sex with.
- Hate Sink: Tate, Peaches's dad, and Claude's dad are all utterly loathsome characters who deserve everything coming to them.
- Hyperlink Story: The film appears like it's trying to do this, but it doesn't work since the storylines don't ever involve the other characters and they never actually interact with each other until the end ( apart from Tate who gets arrested after murdering his grandparents).
- Jerkass: Almost everybody in the film.
- Karma Houdini: Claude and Peaches's dads never get their comeuppance for their actions.
- I Love the Dead: Implied with Tate, who gets an erection after stabbing his grandparents to death.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Tate gets arrested near the end of the film upon murdering his grandparents and three-legged dog.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Tons of it, and none of it is particularly appealing...
- Missing Mom: Peaches's mother died when Peaches was in grade school, and it's mentioned a few times in the film.
- Parental Incest: Again, Claude's and Peaches's fathers (Claude's dad drunkenly attempts to give Claude a blowjob while he sleeps and Peaches's dad "marries" her near the end.
- Posthumous Character: Subverted. The titular Ken Park has absolutely nothing to do with the stories, he was just someone the main characters knew.
- Random Events Plot: Pretty much. None of the characters' stories have to do with Ken Park's suicide, and indeed the only link to Ken Park's story is that they all knew him from school.
- The Reveal: The end of the film shows that Ken Park committed suicide because he got a girl pregnant and she wanted to keep the baby.
- Scrabble Babble: Tate's granddad tries to pawn off "sipi" as a bone in the hip, serving only to make Tate rage.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Subverted. The whole thing seems to be building to something only to lack a plot resolution, but like many of Korine's works, the film serves as a mishmash of social commentary and character study more than it intends to tell a cohesive story.
- Starts with a Suicide: The film opens with Ken Park shooting himself.
- A Tankard of Moose Urine: Possibly what the director was trying to invoke since there's a scene of a man drinking beer and urinating at the same time.
- Teens Are Monsters: Played straight with Tate; zig-zagged with Shawn; inverted with everyone else, who are victims of mentally ill and/or abusive parents.
- Three-Way Sex: Peaches has this with Claude and Shawn near the end of the film.
- Villain Protagonist: Tate definitely cements himself as one, and one could argue that Shawn is one as well.
- World of Jerkass: Many of the characters in the film are loathsome in one way or another, namely all the parental figures (except Hannah's father), Tate, and even Shawn to some degree.
- Wretched Hive: Under a thin veneer of small-town Americana.